The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne on the heartbreak and mid-life crisis that inspired new album The Terror

Coyne surfs the crowd in a space-bubble at their gigs. But his new album is a bleaker affair

I have never talked about my love life in an interview before. But Wayne Coyne, frontman of the Flaming Lips, has a way of getting things out of you. And he has a knack of taking you spectacularly off-course, even if you're the one supposed to be leading the way. Ask the 52-year-old Oklahoman something about his new album and, by the time he's finished responding, he's chatting about his yoga technique. Which is all to say he's hugely entertaining. And which is why I find myself telling him about a romance that went wrong.

The reason we're discussing love, or the end of it, is because it's clearly something that is on Coyne's mind. Although the band have continually reinvented themselves during their 30-year career, anyone familiar with the Flaming Lips as a psychedelic pop band famed for their uplifting melodies and euphoric live shows might be surprised when they first encounter The Terror when it's aired on tour later this month. The band's 15th studio album is a dense, bleak affair that tackles the idea that you can't control love, and, in the end, love cannot save you.

Despite Coyne writing about hope dying and an overwhelming pain, in the lugubrious notes that accompany the album, today he is friendly and chatty. But perhaps his hotel room, which I have met him in, offers more of an insight into his state of mind. The bed is unmade, clothes are strewn all over the floor, and it's littered with boxes of take-away food and half-full glasses of intoxicating liquids ("Apparently it's some special type of port. It's revolting; try it!").

Coyne is reluctant to get into the nitty-gritty but it would be fair to assume that rumours of a recent separation from his wife are the reason behind the dark new album. "This music is really about a part of myself, a period, a time, a build-up to this time, that I don't like to think about that much because it's disturbing to me," he says. "The idea that we made this music, not because I needed to encompass that time, but now I know what that time was, now it haunts me".

The recording of The Terror was almost an accident. While the band were mixing their last album, 2012's Heady Fwends, a collaboration record with guest spots from the likes of Nick Cave and Kesha, Coyne and his bandmate Steven Drozd found themselves retreating to a second studio at unusual hours to mess around. The first song they wrote was "You Are Alone". "It was just the bleakest, most hopeless, most deafening three minutes of distorted mellow sound that we'd ever heard, which to us was great," he recalls. "It doesn't defeat us; it makes us very happy to make music that sounds like you want to kill yourself, you know?"

It's a little disconcerting to hear this kind of talk from someone whose band is famed for shooting confetti cannons at their live shows while the stage is deluged by people in animal costumes and Coyne crowd-surfs in a space-bubble. But then, despite outward appearances, the Flaming Lips have always touched on the dark stuff. After all this is a band whose biggest hit, "Do You Realize??", contains the line, "Do you realise that everyone you know someday will die?"

Flaming Lips' output includes existential dilemmas put to music, a movie called Christmas on Mars, a song for Spongebob Squarepants, and a live musical of Yoshimi…

"I think there is the desire to understand what the hell we are doing. And the wonder of the world and all its beauty and fear." He pauses. "And the fact that we're weirdos", he adds, very matter-of-factly.

It's unclear how much of a weirdo he really is. Sure, he's wearing glittery nail polish and talks about dreading "normal, everyday life" but he's also unfailingly polite and generous. At one point he starts referring to himself in the third person ("I sing things that sound like Wayne-things to sing about") and I wonder how much of a construction Wayne Coyne, frontman of the Flaming Lips, is.

"I understand the mythological version is more interesting than just being a real person. It allows you to say, 'I'm gonna stand up here and say this tonight'."

Presumably the new album will perplex quite a few of their fans. "Yeah but I think that's what they want," he reasons.

"We may lose everybody in the end and everyone might say, 'that record really sucks, why'd you make it?'. But I think in time they'll say: 'Those are our guys. That's why we love them.' Plus we've already made however many records and some of 'em people like, some of 'em they don't. It's not that big of a deal."

Having released a song last year called "Is David Bowie Dying?" following speculation about the reclusive singer, I ask if Coyne is happy that David Bowie is now putting out new music.

"Yes! Of course! I don't love everything he's done but I love, love, love the way he is... Don't like what you do? Change it. Change who you are. And that's great news. I mean, what a world to live in."

And then, just for a moment, he beams wide and looks thoughtful. And even a little bit happy.

'The Terror' is out now on Bella Union. Flaming Lips play London and Brighton, 20 to 24 May (www.flaminglips.com)

*This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar Magazine

 

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine